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Israeli PM to pay first visit to Cyprus

(Xinhua)

10:42, February 16, 2012

NICOSIA, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will pay a one-day working visit to Cyprus on Thursday, the first ever visit by an Israeli head of government to the eastern Mediterranean island, a Cypriot official statement said Wednesday.

The statement said he will head an official delegation to have talks with a Cypriot delegation under President Demetris Christofias.

No details were announced, but reliable sources said energy issues will be at the center of their talks.

Netanyahu and Christofias are also expected to sign an agreement on cooperation between the two neighboring countries on search and rescue operations in the eastern Mediterranean.

The agreement is closely connected to plans for offshore drilling and joint development of hydrocarbons deposits discovered in the exclusive economic zones of both countries, which is facing Turkish opposition.

Ankara questions the right of both Israel and Cyprus to exploit gas reserves in these areas, claiming that the plans to develop gas resources harm the rights of Turkish Cypriots living in the northern part of the island.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and controlled the north of Cyprus following a coup on the island by Greek army officers.

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